Music

The Honorary Title: Scream and Light Up the Sky

Colin McGuire

Brooklyn rockers turn the knob on the time machine and create an album for the ages.


The Honorary Title

Scream and Light Up the Sky

Label: Doghouse
US Release Date: 2007-08-28
Amazon
iTunes

So the members of Brooklyn, New York, pseudo indie-rockers the Honorary Title really, really like Elvis Costello and Jeff Buckley. Or at least both their official web site and MySpace pages like to think so. Where they push it is where they claim to actually sound like both of those legendary artists. That's a bit of a stretch.

But that's also a good thing. While the influences of both Costello and Buckley run rampant throughout their latest release Scream and Light Up the Sky, the Honorary Title prove to be their own band by fast-forwarding the two legends' better days 20 or 30 years and adding an element of pop that neither one of those icons could completely grasp.

What does that mean? Well, it means that even though emotionally poignant words glitter the heartrending music much like their influences loved to, you could envision sitting in your car on a rainy Sunday night and hearing the latest Honorary Title single on pop radio. And contrary to what most of their fans would probably like to think, that too is a good thing.

It makes the songs that appear on Scream and Light Up the Sky somewhat more accessible than say, songs like "Radio Radio" or "Everybody Here Wants You". Where their predecessors wrote classic songs that most people outside of their fan base would never hear, the Honorary Title write great songs that still have a shot at being heard by millions.

And with any luck those songs will be heard by millions because, in essence, they should. With their latest effort, the Honorary Title get as close to perfection as any almost-too- hip-for-their-own-good act can. The album's melancholy undercurrent, college radio feel, lyrical prowess, and hook-tastic choruses force the world to begin to take notice of Jarrod Gorbel and Aaron Kamstra's once two-man experiment.

"Stay Away" and "Radiate" showcase Gorbel's wannabe monotone voice as emotion gets the best of him and translates his disgust into pure pop brilliance. Both songs' signature guitar lines compel any listener to pay attention for as long as the instrument asks before his voice carries these two could-be hits. The repetitive nature of both ensures a lifetime stay in anyone's brain.

On the album's first track, "Thin Layer", Gorbel transforms his voice to sound a lot like Muse's Matthew Bellamy and a little like The Killers' Brandon Flowers. Considering his voice resides over a musical track that could have easily been on both of the aforementioned bands' latest releases, the song becomes fun to try and decipher which band it sounds like more. And while the battle continues, the sound creates a dazzling blend that becomes greater than its parts.

"Untouched and Intact", the song that may be the first single from Scream and Light Up the Sky, is the best thing the 1980s didn't produce. Here, Gorbel makes yet another renovation to his voice by begging someone to compare him to Morrissey and his band to the Smiths. Though the chorus itself is enough to take you back to leg warmers and stonewashed jeans, the song's verses make you swear you heard it on a college radio station sometime in 1982 between "Radio Free Europe" and "Boys Don't Cry".

Then there is the best song the Honorary Title will ever write. "Stuck at Sea" is big enough to be played in any arena across the world and sad enough to make you shed one extra tear knowing a man actually went through this tale of heartbreak in much of the same way you or I ever have. As Gorbel does his absolute best Flowers impression, a line like "I keep burning my fingers in an attempt to rekindle the flame" promises you -- in ways not seen on any of the band's other recordings -- that he simply needs a hug.

The hugs then become more imperative as the album sinks into its slower tracks. "Far More" has an acoustic guitar and yet another reincarnation of vocals that suggests a candle lit room and a whole bunch of weeping. "Even If", Scream and Light Up the Sky's swan song, competes for the King of Gloom and Reflection title with nothing but guitar strings and possibly Gorbel's most miserable performance. Fortunately for listeners, that misery couldn't have been captured in a more perfect way.

So while the Honorary Title may never be able to sit at the same table as their influences, Scream and Light Up the Sky puts them a couple chairs closer. And with that said, someone ought to send Mr. MacManus a copy. With such a magnificent blend of big sounds and bigger emotions, he may just grant them an honorary title of his own.

8

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image